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Being an illustrator is great fun. Why? Because you can use your imagination to go places you’ve never been and do things you’ve never done. For instance, I have always wanted a log cabin up in the mountains. As a teen, I used to imagine having a studio up a flight of wooden steps to a big room. It would have rafter ceilings and a window seat for me to look out of. It would be warm and cozy and I could sit and do my art all day long near a roaring fire in the wood stove.
When I began thinking of places for my character Burl the bear to live in, I made it just like “I” wanted it! Warm and inviting! When you walk through the doorway of my story, you will find a home that lives in my imagination. It will be a place that I love and I will revisit it many times as the story progresses. I must be passionate about what I draw or it becomes listless and boring. This process is what makes a story believable.
My experience tells me that children notice the tiniest of details. I did a school visit after Peepsqueak was published by Harper Collins Publisher. I read the book to the children and then we talked. Through out the story there was another story going on in the book. It was a little tiny mouse who appeared on many of the pages. The children did not miss it. They even commented on the mouse as I read to them. I let them in on a little secret. I named the mouse Elliot. When I told them his name they all squealed with delight and pointed to the cutest little boy in their classroom who was named Elliot! He was beaming. Suddenly he became part of the story. He was so happy!
These are the things that make a story magical in the eyes of children and adults alike. Its also why I continue creating images. I love seeing characters develop. I love finding their voices. .. what they are like… what they like to do. It does not stop when I leave the studio. I think about them all the time, until I finally know how they would react in any given situation. That way they become very believable creations and loved by all.
Stay posted, Burl and Briley are growing on my heart daily. I can hardly wait to illustrate the books that are in my mind!
The Bechtel Library (image provided by Mary Gaither Marshall)
Little did I realize when arriving at the Gainesville Airport the evening of January 31, 2007, that the next month would be the highlight of my professional career. In 2005, as I was glancing through my most recent issue of Children and Libraries, I noticed Leslie Barban’s article, “Evolution of Children’s Literature Getting Sidetracked—Delightfully—at the Baldwin Library.” As I read the article, I thought, if only I could have that same experience. Before becoming a children’s librarian, I had worked for six years in rare book shops, so having the opportunity to research and read about children’s books would be a dream experience for me. In 2005, when both of my children were in college, I decided to apply for the 2006 Bechtel Fellowship. As part of the application, I needed to decide on a topic. The most difficult part of the process was determining which area of the collection to focus on. I decided to examine the papers of the founder of the collection, Ruth Baldwin. How did a librarian of modest means, form one of the greatest collection of children’s literature in the world? I sent my application in thinking that I would probably have to apply several times before I would receive the fellowship.
Mary in the Closed Stacks (photo courtesy of Mary Gaither Marshall)
In January 2006, I received a phone call at work from the ALA office. My first thought was that they were calling about my membership. I was shocked when the caller congratulated me on receiving the 2006 Bechtel Fellowship. After the call, I was bursting with excitement and couldn’t wait to tell my staff and director, and really, anyone who walked in the library, that I was going to spend a month reading children’s books and examining Ruth Baldwin’s letters and diaries at the University of Florida. Yes, I’m definitely a rare book geek.
Fortunately, my director at the Addison Public Library (Illinois), Mary Medjo MeZengue, was very supportive of my taking a month off from my usual responsibilities, to complete my Fellowship. We had just begun a new building project, so we carefully planned the best time for me to go to the Baldwin Library. We decided February 2007 would be the time when I was least needed for decisions. So I made arrangements with Rita Smith, then curator of the Baldwin, to spend the month. She placed me in contact with past Bechtel Fellowship winners and helped me to make local arrangements. I spent the month in a delightful cottage at the Sweetwater Bed and Breakfast about two miles from the campus. Each morning I would walk to the library and spend the day immersed in books, letters, diaries, and other papers. On the first day, Rita gave me a tour of the library and a one time only view of the closed stacks. After that, I had to request each item which was then brought to me. I was also able to interview Rita and several other faculty members who had known Ruth Baldwin. I would work steadily until the library closed at six. During the evenings and weekends, I would review my research and make plans for what I wanted to review the next day. I also read and responded to my work email and did collection development. I was amazed at how much of my work I was able to complete without every day distractions.
Mary with the Egolf Display (photo courtesy of Mary Gaither Marshall)
During the last week of my fellowship in 2007, a new addition of 2,800 illustrated American children’s books, dating from 1807-2003, formed and donated by Dr. Robert L. Egolf, arrived at the Baldwin Library. Because of my experience working with rare books, Rita gave me the opportunity to explore the boxes of books. Those of us in the Baldwin Library the day Dr. Egolf’s collection arrived, surely felt the same excitement that the University of Florida’s Smather’s Library staff felt almost 30 years before when Ruth Baldwin brought her magnificent collection to the University of Florida. On my last day at the Baldwin Library, I assisted Rita Smith in creating a display for the reception honoring Dr. Egolf’s donation.
Perhaps in the future, I will have the opportunity to return to the Baldwin and research these new additions to the Baldwin Library.
I encourage all of you who have the opportunity, to apply for the Louise Seaman Bechtel Fellowship. You too can receive $4,000 to spend a month reading and researching children’s books. The deadline is Saturday, November 1, 2014. Apply today!
There is a quarrel inside me about fairies, and the form of literature their presence helps to define. I have never tried to see a fairy, or at least not since I was five years old. The interest of Casimiro Piccolo reveals how attitudes to folklore belong to their time: he was affected by the scientific inquiry into the paranormal which flourished – in highly intellectual circles – from the late nineteenth century and into the twentieth. But he also presents a test case, I feel, for the questions that hang around fairies and fairy tales in the twenty-first century. What is the point of them? What are the uses of such enchantments today? The absurdity of this form of magical belief (religious miracles are felt to be different, and not only by believers) creates a quarrel inside me, about the worth of this form of literature and entertainment I enjoy so much. In what way am I ‘away with the fairies’, too?
Suspicion now hangs around fairy tales because the kind of supernatural creatures and events they include belong to a belief system nobody subscribes to anymore. Even children, unless very small, are in on the secret that fairyland is a fantasy. In the past, however, allusions to fairies could be dangerous not because belief in them was scorned, but because they were feared: Kirk collected the beliefs of his flock in order to defend them against charges of heterodoxy or witchcraft, and, the same time as Kirk’s ethnographical activities, Charles Perrault published his crucially influential collection (l697), in which he pokes fun, with suave courtly wit, at the dangerousness of witches and witchcraft, ogres and talking animals. Perrault is slippery and ambiguous. His Cinderella is a tale of marvellously efficacious magic, but he ends with a moral: recommending his readers to find themselves well-placed godmothers. Not long before he was writing his fairy tales, France and other places in Europe had seen many people condemned to death on suspicion of using magic. The fairy tale emerges as entertainment in a proto-enlightenment move to show that there is nothing to fear.
The current state of fairy tale – whether metastasized in huge blockbuster films or refreshed and re-invigorated in the fiction of Robert Coover, Donald Barthelme, Margaret Atwood or, most recently, Helen Oyeyemi (Mr Fox, and, this year, Boy Snow Bird) does not invite, let alone compel, belief in its magic elements as from an audience of adepts or faithful. Contemporary readers and audiences, including children over the age of 6, are too savvy about special effects and plot lines and the science/magic overlap to accept supernatural causes behind Angelina Jolie’s soaring in Maleficent or the transmogrifications of the characters. Nor do they, nor do we need to suspend disbelief in the willed way Coleridge described.
Rather the ways of approaching the old material – Blue Beard, The Robber Bridegroom, Hansel & Gretel, Snow White and so on – opens up the stories to new meanings. The familiar narrative becomes the arena for raising questions; the story’s well known features provide a common language for thinking about families and love, childhood and marriage. Fairies and their realm allow thought experiments about alternative arrangements in this world. We are no longer looking for fairies at the bottom of the garden, but seeing through them to glimpse other things. As the little girl realises in The Servant’s Tale by Paula Fox, her grandmother through her stories ‘saw what others couldn’t see, that for her the meaning of one thing could also be the meaning of a greater thing.’ In the past, these other, greater things were most often promises – escape, revenge, recognition, glory – but the trend of fairy tales is turning darker, and many retellings no longer hold out such bright eyed hope.
Featured image credit: Sleeping Beauty, by Viktor M. Vasnetsov. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
I’m writing from Palermo where I’ve been teaching a course on the legacy of Troy. Myths and fairy tales lie on all sides in this old island. It’s a landscape of stories and the past here runs a live wire into the present day. Within the same hour, I saw an amulet from Egypt from nearly 3000 years ago, and passed a young, passionate balladeer giving full voice in the street to a ballad about a young woman – la baronessa Laura di Carini – who was killed by her father in 1538. He and her husband had come upon her alone with a man whom they suspected to be her lover. As she fell under her father’s stabbing, she clung to the wall, and her hand made a bloody print that can still be seen in the castle at Carini – or so I was told. The cantastorie – the ballad singer – was giving the song his all. He was sincere and funny at the same time as he knelt and frowned, mimed and lamented.
The eye of Horus, or Wadjet, was found in a Carthaginian’s grave in the city and it is still painted on the prows of fishing boats, and worn as a charm all over the Mediterranean and the Middle East, in order to ward off dangers. This function is, I believe, one of the deepest reasons for telling stories in general, and fairy tales in particular: the fantasy of hope conjures an antidote to the pain the plots remember. The street singer was young, curly haired, and had spent some time in Liverpool, he told me later, but he was back home now, and his song was raising money for a street theatre called Ditirammu (dialect for Dithryamb), that performs on a tiny stage in the stables of an ]old palazzo in the district called the Kalsa. Using a mixture of puppetry, song, dance, and mime, the troupe give local saints’ legends, traditional tales of crusader paladins versus dastardly Moors, and pastiches of Pinocchio, Snow White, and Alice in Wonderland.
Their work captures the way fairy tales spread through different media and can be played, danced or painted and still remain recognisable: there are individual stories which keep shape-shifting across time, and there is also a fairytale quality which suffuses different forms of expression (even recent fashion designs have drawn on fairytale imagery and motifs). The Palermo theatre’s repertoire also reveals the kinship between some history and fairy tale: the hard facts enclosed and memorialised in the stories. Although the happy ending is a distinguishing feature of fairy tales, many of them remember the way things were – Bluebeard testifies to the kinds of marriages that killed Laura di Carini.
A few days after coming across the cantastorie in the street, I was taken to see the country villa on the crest of Capo d’Orlando overlooking the sea, where Casimiro Piccolo lived with his brother and sister. The Piccolo siblings were rich Sicilian landowners, peculiar survivals of a mixture of luxurious feudalism and austere monasticism. A dilettante and dabbler in the occult, Casimiro believed in fairies. He went out to see them at twilight, the hour recommended by experts such as William Blake, who reported he had seen a fairy funeral, and the Revd. Robert Kirk, who had the information on good authority from his parishioners in the Highlands, where fairy abductions, second sight, and changelings were a regular occurrence in the seventeenth century.
Casimiro’s elder brother, Lucio, a poet who had a brief flash of fame in the Fifties, was as solitary, odd-looking, and idiosyncratic as himself, and the siblings lived alone with their twenty servants, in the midst of a park with rare shrubs and cacti from all over the world, their beautiful summer villa filled with a vast library of science, art, and literature, and marvellous things. They slept in beds as narrow as a discalced Carmelite’s, and never married. They loved their dogs, and gave them names that are mostly monosyllables, often sort of orientalised in a troubling way. They range from ‘Aladdin’ to ‘Mameluk’ to ‘Book’ and the brothers built them a cemetery of their own in the garden.
Casimiro was a follower of Paracelsus, who had distinguished the elemental beings as animating matter: gnomes, undines, sylphs and salamanders. Salamanders, in the form of darting, wriggling lizards, are plentiful on the baked stones of the south, but the others are the cousins of imps and elves, sprites and sirens, and they’re not so common. The journal Psychic News, to which Casimiro subscribed, inspired him to try to take photographs of the apparitions he saw in the park of exotic plants around the house. He also ordered various publications of the Society of Psychical Research and other bodies who tried to tap immaterial presences and energies. He was hoping for images like the famous Cottingley images of fairies sunbathing or dancing which Conan Doyle so admired. But he had no success. Instead, he painted: a fairy punt poled by a hobgoblin through the lily pads, a fairy doctor with a bag full of shining golden instruments taking the pulse of a turkey, four old gnomes consulting a huge grimoire held up by imps, etiolated genies, turbaned potentates, and eastern sages. He rarely left Sicily, or indeed, his family home, and he went on painting his sightings in soft, rich watercolour from 1943 to 1970 when he died.
His work looks like Victorian or Edwardian fairy paintings. Had this reclusive Sicilian seen the crazed visions of Richard Dadd, or illustrations by Arthur Rackham or John Anster Fitzgerald? Or even Disney? Disney was looking very carefully at picture books when he formed the famous characters and stamped them with his own jokiness. Casimiro doesn’t seem to be in earnest, and the long-nosed dwarfs look a little bit like self-mockery. It is impossible to know what he meant, if he meant what he said, or what he believed. But the fact remains, for a grown man to believe in fairies strikes us now as pretty silly.
The Piccolo family’s cousin, close friend and regular visitor was Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, the author of The Leopard, and he wrote a mysterious and memorable short story about a classics professor who once spent a passionate summer with a mermaid. But tales of fairies, goblins, and gnomes seem to belong to an altogether different degree of absurdity from a classics professor meeting a siren.
And yet, the Piccolo brothers communicated with Yeats, who held all kinds of beliefs. He smelted his wonderful poems from a chaotic rubble of fairy lore, psychic theories, dream interpretation, divinatory methods, and Christian symbolism: “Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.”
Featured image credit: Capo d’Orlando, by Chtamina. CC-BY-SA-2.5 via Wikimedia Commons
ALSC is reminding members to apply for professional awards this fall. Applications are open and several deadlines are approaching. Below is list of ALSC professional awards which are available for submission or nomination. Please consider applying or nominating a colleague:
One of the commenters following Mac Barnett’s Ted Talk “Why a good book is a secret door” quoted Antoine de Saint-Exupéry from The Little Prince: “Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.” The essence of this statement is a perfect way […]
If you’ll be around Pittsburgh Saturday, September 13, please stop by the old Salty Carrot shipwreck pavilion (the big blue slide) in Frick Park. I’ll be part of Alphabet Trail and Tales from 10:00 – 1:00, reading & painting and telling horrible pirate jokes.
I’m back with another Wednesday series of interviews with published and unpublished illustrators whose work I admire. So prepare to be wowed by the skill and fascinated by their process and passions as we get a glimpse into their lives … Continue reading →
I’m thrilled to be back blogging after a stellar three-month summer hiatus. I completed the first draft to my contemporary YA, which is my MFA thesis. I attended a superb writer’s craft conference for the benefit of the non-profit Sierra … Continue reading →
I have a very special guest on my blog today: Betsy Bird, one of my favorite kidlit bloggers! Her passion for kidlit and her excellent blog posts are some of the reasons I decided to start blogging about kidlit and YA lit!
Betsy has written a book with her fellow American kidlit bloggers, the late Peter Sieruta and Julie Danielson. (Julie is also one of my favorite kidlit bloggers, and one of my favorite people in the whole wide world.) There aren't physical copies of Wild Things in the Philippines yet, but if you click here, us Philippine readers can get Kindle editions. Wild Things is a behind-the-scenes look at the American children's book industry. A *naughty* behind-the-scenes look. The book *is* about "acts of mischief in children's literature." :D
Betsy, thank you so much for visiting Into the Wardrobe. Dear readers, Betsy's guest blog post is below. Please check Into the Wardrobe again later this week for my review of Wild Things!
You Know When They Say Winning the Lottery is the Worst Thing That Can Happen to You? It’s True.
By Betsy Bird
You may have seen YA author John Green allude to this recently. Not too long ago he created this lovely little Mental Floss video called 47 Charming Facts AboutChildren’s Books.At around 2:53 you’ll hear John talk about the great Margaret Wise Brown.John points out that Ms. Brown almost randomly left the rights to her classic picture book Goodnight Moon to the neighbor kid next door.Literally.The boy next door.But this being a quick video John doesn’t exactly go into any detail.Curious about why exactly Margaret did that and what the effect was on the kid?In Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature (written by myself, Julie Danielson, and the late Peter Sieruta) we looked into the story and here’s what we found.
The fact of the matter is that Ms. Brown was lovely, vivacious, and died tragically young.As recounted in our book, she was just 42 when she died of an embolism.In fact, it was the cute little can-can kicks she did for her doctor to show how great she was feeling that ultimately did the deed.
Few perfectly healthy 42-year-olds expect to be dead at any moment, so we should take Margaret’s will with a grain of salt.She apparently changed it more than once and had she lived she probably wouldn’t have kept it the same for very long.Nonetheless, and for whatever reason, she did indeed leave the rights to what would become her greatest work to Albert Clarke, her 9-year-old neighbor.
Weird?Not as much as you might think.See, the fact of the matter is that Goodnight Moon wasn’t really a hit in Margaret’s lifetime.It did okay but it took some time for the book to gain any ground in the cultural mindset.So when she granted Arthur the rights it wasn’t supposed to be any great shakes.
Next thing he knows, the kid’s a millionaire.Fabulous, right?Apparently not.Though it might be a bit of a stretch to say it this way, money ruined Arthur.But for the details of how exactly he was ruined I’m afraid you’re just going to have to read our book.Sorry about that, but trust me when I say that I hope John Green learns a lesson or two from Margaret’s story.The next time he feels like leaving the rights to, say, An Abundance of Katherines to little Johnny down the street as a nice gesture, maybe he should think again.Trust me.Little Johnny will be just fine without the cash.
Guest Editors: Lara Saguisag, College of Staten Island-City University of New York Matthew B. Prickett, Rutgers University-Camden We are seeking papers that investigate the intersections between the histories, theories, and practices of children's rights and children's literature. In response to the ratification of the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN-CRC) in 1989, advocates and scholars have debated the necessity and revealed the complexity of defining and implementing children's rights across the globe. Critical discourse on children's rights, however, has not yet fully examined the role that children's literature plays in shaping, promoting, implementing and interrogating children's rights. This special issue invites scholars to explore the connections between the institutions of children's rights and children's literature.
Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
Depictions of young people's political and/or economic participation in children's and young adult literature Literary representations of child soldiers, child laborers, child sex workers and other young people whose rights are deemed violated The role of children's literature in fulfilling young people's rights (such as the right to education and the right to leisure) The relationships between charters on human and children's rights (such as the 1930 White House Convention Children's Charter, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1989 United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child) and twentieth-century children's literature How historical fiction and non-fiction about other rights movements (women's rights, gay rights, Civil Rights, labor rights, immigrant rights, etc. ) attempt to shape young readers' understanding of rights U.N.-funded children's books that explicitly promote children's rights Poverty and children's and young adult literature Colonialism/Postcolonialism and children’s and young adult literature Citizenship and children's and young adult literature Censorship and children's rights Conflicts between child characters and adult characters over the child's rights and obligations
Essays should be sent to guest editors Lara Saguisag and Matthew B. Prickett at LU.RightsIssue@gmail.com by May 31, 2015. Submissions should be 15-20 pages (4000-6000 words). Accepted articles will appear in issue 40.2 (2016) of The Lion and the Unicorn.
The Philippines' 3rd National Children's Book Awards included a Kids' Choice Award! Five judges, ages 11-13, read picture books published in 2012 and 2013 and picked their top ten favorites. Below are the ten books and the kid judges' citations for the books. I have put their citations in boldface, but have not edited their writing in any other way!
Sandwich to the Moon Written and illustrated by Jamie Bauza Chikiting Books, 2013
Si Berting, ang Batang Uling Written by Christopher S. Rosales Illustrated by Aldy Aguirre Lampara, 2013
I. together with the other judges chose 10 books that will be the top 10 finalists but i will only share our reasons why we chose "Sandwich to the Moon" & "Si Berting ang Batang Uling" as part of the Top 10 finalists because we think that younger readers will easily understand and relate to these books' content and also we think that the writers, as well as illustrators along with the publishing companies did a job well-done in writing, illustrating, and publishing the books in an entertaining, creative and inspirational way. I would like to congratulate sir Jaime Bauza, writer & illustrator of "Sandwich to the Moon" and L G & M Corporation. And congratulation also to sir Christopher Rosales as the writer, Aldy Aguirre as the illustrator of the book entitled "Si Berting ang Batang Uling" and Adarna House Inc. for publishing the book. Thank You!
By Carelle Ann Abanico
Pages Written by Javier T. Delfin Illustrated by Gabi Dimaranan Bookmark, 2013 One of the 10 finalists for the Kids' Choice Award is a book entitled "Pages." It is written by Javier T. Delfin with illustrations by Gabi Dimaranan and published by The Bookmark, Inc. This book was chosen because of it's unique story. The very colourful drawings and pictures were also really cool. And the words were really simple and easy to understand.
By Pheonna Heart Ragasa
Sinemadyika Written by Lauren V. Macaraeg Illustrated by Aldy Aguirre Lampara, 2013
"Sine Madyika" written by Lauren V. Macaraeg, illustrations by Aldy Aguirre and published by Lampara Books is also a finalist. The story's creative way of telling us that everyone can have fun was really cool. We liked how the story showed us that even if Popoy was blind he still has a lot of fun.
By Pheonna Heart Ragasa
Pintong Maraming Silid Written by Eugene Y. Evasco Illustrated by Leo Kempis Ang Chikiting Books, 2013
The Little Girl in a Box Written by Felinda V. Bagas Illustrated by Aldy Aguirre Adarna House, 2013
A pleasant afternoon to everyone. First of all I would like to say thank you to everyone as a sign of my gratitude for this once in a lifetime privilege that you had given me. Being a part of this event was an extreme honor for a student like me. I hope that this event will be successful and I also hope that we judges, did our job well enough.
One of the two books that I had chosen was the “Pintong Maraming Silid”. One of the reasons why I had chosen this book was because of its simplicity. I loved the story line and how the story was stated. I also liked the illustrations and most of all, I loved the story because I easily understood it.
The other book that I had chosen was entitled “The Little Girl in a Box”. One of the reasons why I had chosen this book was because of its really good storyl ine. I loved how the story flows. It was precisely stated and it was very simple yet it was still good. I really, really enjoyed it.
By Jay Harold Odon
May Darating na Trak Bukas
Written by Virgilio S. Almario Illustrated by Sergio Bumatay III
Adarna House, 2013
May trak na darating bukas. Ano kaya ang kakaibang mga gamit na dala nito? Hindi basura kundi mga sorpresa at milagro. Sa tambak ng basurang ito ang luma ay ginagawang bago.
Ang May Darating na Trak Bukas ay tungkol sa kung anong magagawa mo gamit ang iyong imahinasyon. Sa mata ng isang bata sa kwento, ang tambak ng basura ay may pakinabang. Nakakalikha siya ng isang kaharian, isang sasakyang panlakbay at isang aklatan. Imahinasyon lang ang kaniyang kailangan.
Bukod sa magandang tula na isinulat, puno rin nang makulay at nakakatuwang mga guhit ang libro. Nakakaaliw siyang tingnan at basahin paulit-ulit. Hindi ka talaga masasawa.
By Miranda Villanueva
Ang Bonggang Bonggang Batang Beki! Written by Rhandee Garlitos Illustrated by Tokwa Peñaflorida Chikiting Books, 2013
Ano ba ang ibig sabihin ng kulay pink? Kagandahan? Kababaihan? o katapangan?
Ang pangunahing tauhan ng kwentong ito ay si Adel, isang batang lalaki na hindi katulad ng ibang mga batang lalaki. Mahilig siya sa kulay pink, manood ng teleserye at sumayaw habang kumakanta. Dahil dito, pinagtatawanan siya at tinatawag na Beki. Pero hindi ni Adel pinapansin ang mga tukso sa kaniya. Para sa kaniya, ang kulay pink ay simbolo ng katapangan. Pinili ko ang kwentong ito dahil sinasabi niya na iba’t-iba ang mga uri ng taong nasa mundo. Hindi rin tayo dapat mahiya sa sarili natin. Isa itong importanteng mensahe na dapat malaman ng ating kabataan para maturuan silang tanggapin ang isa’t-isa.
By Miranda Villanueva
The Day of Darkness
Written by Gutch Gutierrez and Zig Marasigan
Illustrated by Gutch Gutierrez
Come to a town where the people fear a beast so might that nobody dare come near. They hide in a cave at the full moon to prevent themselves to be eaten by a monster soon. When two kids venture out when the moon is high, do you think their end would be nigh?
The Day of Darkness is about standing up to your fear and conquering your you. This book tells us that some good people can turn sour at an instant and how some bad people can redeem themselves and become good.
By Amihan Ramos
Ang Ikaklit sa Aming Hardin Written by Bernadette Villanueva Neri Illustrated by CJ de Silva Publikasyong Twamkittens, 2012 This is a story about a young girl who has two mothers instead of a father. Because of this, she gets bullied in class and only a few kids talk to her because they are also being bullied. This little girl loves to plant just like her mothers. This book teaches us not to bully others just because they are different or they grew up differently or their parents are different. That it’s okay to be adopted. That it’s okay to be different.
By Amihan Ramos
Five different judges, ages 8-10, read the ten picture books above and chose one winner for the 2014 National Children's Book Awards - Kids' Choice Award. The winner is The Day of Darkness! Here is what the kid judges had to say about The Day of Darkness:
We like The Day of Darkness because it makes you believe that everything isn’t really scary. It can make you believe that sometimes, you can adapt to things and you don’t have to be so scared anymore.
By Alonzo Cristobal
Congratulations to all the teams behind these books selected by young Filipino book lovers!
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In June, (now former) Education Secretary Michael Gove announced that all primary and secondary schools should promote “British values”. David Cameron said that the plans for values education are likely to have the “overwhelming support” of citizens throughout the UK. Cameron defined these values as “freedom, tolerance, respect for the rule of law, belief in personal and social responsibility and respect for British institutions”. At root, such a policy gets at the emotional conditioning of children. To adhere to a certain ideological conceptualization of “freedom,” to feel “tolerant,” or to be “respectful” (whether of parents, teachers, authorities or institutions), is to act according to implicit feelings of rightness.
Values are never just abstract ideas, but are expressed and experienced through emotions. And they are not ideologically neutral. To stress the education of British values is to put a form of emotional education on the agenda. Though many commentators have pointed out that the broad outlines of such an education already exist in schools, the fear of “extremism”, of the promotion of the “wrong” sort of values, has triggered a vigorous debate. What has largely gone unrecognized in this debate, however, is that it is emphatically not new.
In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, politicians and educationalists promoted a new education based on character training and the emotions, precisely to build British citizens who would respect and uphold British institutions. This brand of education was to be accomplished at school, but also at home, and in religious and youth organizations.
Herbert Fisher, the President of the Board of Education who spearheaded the Education Act of 1918, argued that the masses should be educated “to stimulate civic spirit, to promote general culture … and to diffuse a steadier judgement and a better informed opinion through the whole body of the community.” Other educational commentators broadly agreed with this mission. Frederick Gould, a former Board School teacher and author of many books on education argued that “The community cannot afford to let the young people pass out with a merely vague notion that they ought to be good; it must frame its teaching with a decisive and clear vision for family responsibilities, civic and political duties”.
Civic duties – the civic spirit – were to be taught to the extent that they would become ingrained, implicit, felt. This was to be primarily a moral education. Educators stressed character training, linking moral education to British imperialism or nationalism in an unashamedly patriotic spirit. Education reform was to improve future citizens’ productivity and develop national character traits.
Like Gould, educator John Haden Badley stressed the need to teach active citizenship and service. Education on these lines would provide “a deeper understanding of the human values that give to life its real worth”, cultivating and maximizing the potential of a “superior” Britishness. Meanwhile, in a speech in Manchester in 1917, Fisher argued that “the whole future of our race and of our position in the world depends upon the wisdom of the arrangements which we make for education.” He observed, in language strikingly familiar to contemporary political rhetoric, that “we are apt to find that the wrong things are being taught by the wrong people in the wrong way.”
But even in 1917 the rhetoric was clichéd. A generation of commentators before Fisher argued that the civic shortfalls in mass formal education could be fixed by informal education in youth groups and religious organizations and through improved reading matter. Much juvenile and family literature, whether motivated politically or religiously, stressed emotional socialization, especially in the building of morality and character, as critical for national cohesion.
The trouble with visions of national cohesion, as the last century and a half of educational debate bears out, is the difficulty in getting any two parties to agree what that vision looks like. At the turn of the twentieth century all agreed that children mattered. How they were to be educated was important not just to individual children and their families, but equally importantly, to the community and the nation.
Yet some reformers had patriotic aims, others religious; some civic, some imperial; some conservative, others socialist. Many combined some or all of these aims. All, whether explicitly stated or not, wanted to train, instrumentalize and harness children’s emotions. Children’s reading matter, the stories they were told, and the lessons they heard were known to be powerful forces in cultivating the emotions. Hence the high stakes, then and now, on the narratives supplied to children.
Michael Gove, in common with his Victorian forebears, turns to the “great heroes of history” to serve as models of emulation. Back in the early 1900s, Gould thought history “the most vital of all studies for inspiration to conduct.” The study of history is certainly no stranger to being manipulated for didactic ends in order to impart “British values.”
While Gove is only the latest in a long line to link British history, British values and education, there are surely lessons to be learnt from past attempts and past failures to implement this strategy. A generation of boys and young men at the turn of the twentieth century had grown up learning the positive value of patriotic service. In this memorial year, marking a century since the outbreak of the First World War, it seems appropriate to reflect on what values we might want to instil in the young. What feelings do we want them to learn?
Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature is an insider's guide to the world of children's books and their creators, written by three well-known children's book bloggers. In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I have known Betsy Bird and Julie Danielson since my earliest days of blogging. While we've only met face to face a few times, I've read their blogs for years, and been on shared mailing lists and the like. I also read the late Peter Sieruta's blog, though I don't believe I ever had any direct contact with him. So you should consider my discussion of Wild Things! more along the lines of a recommendation than a critical review. I very much enjoyed the book.
Wild Things! reveals the authors' deep affection for and knowledge of the field of children's literature. They discuss everything from the history of subversive children's literature to book banning to the ways that the Harry Potter books have affected the industry. This is the first book I've seen that openly discusses gay and lesbian authors of children's books, and how the outsider status of some of these authors may have affected their work. Like this:
"Unique perspectives yield unique books. It is difficult to be gay and not see the world in a way that is slightly different from that of your straight peers." (Page 54, ARC)
I especially enjoyed chapters on "scandalous mysteries and mysterious scandals" and "some hidden delights of children's literature." There's also an interesting discussion of the books critics love vs. the books that kids love.
Despite covering a lot of ground, Wild Things! is a quick, engaging read. Though there are extensive end-notes citing sources, and it's clear that much research has been done, the book itself reads like a series of chatty essays written by friends. Wild Things! is full of interesting tidbits, like the extra pupil shown on one page of Madeline, and a rather disturbing claim by Laura that Pa Ingalls may have once encountered a serial killer. There are some resources that may help those new to thinking about children's books, such as a list of publications that review children's books. But for the most part, Wild Things! is a book that's going to appeal most to people who already have a reasonably solid grasp of the industry, and at least a passing familiarity with the key players.
Wild Things! is not, however, insider-y in terms of the book blogging world. Because I've read so many posts by Betsy and Jules, there were certainly places where I could hear their distinct voices coming through. There are some fun sidebars in which all three authors briefly take on some question or author. But there is scant mention in the book of the authors' blogs themselves. The authors do muse a bit in the final chapter about the impact of cozy relationships between bloggers and authors, but for the most part they keep their emphasis on books and authors, and other people who have been instrumental in the evolution of the larger children's book world (like Ursula Nordstrom). They do include snippets of interviews with many authors and publishers, frequently backing up their own opinions with remarks from leaders in the field.
WildThings! is strong on the defense of the importance of children's literature (and fairly strong against message-driven celebrity books). Like this:
"And with every doctor, librarian, and early childhood educator telling us that childhood's importance is without parallel, it is baffling to see their literature condescended to, romanticized, and generally misunderstood." (Page 5 of the ARC)
"Childhood is not a phase to be disregarded; the same should be said of the books children read. They deserve well-crafted tales from the people who have the talent to write and illustrate them and who take their craft seriously. Do they need heavy-handed sermons from the latest celebrity "It" girl's newest children's book? Not so much." (Page 6)
I also loved this quote from A. A. Milne:
"Whatever fears one has, one need not fear that one is writing too well for a child, any more than one need fear that one is becoming almost too lovable." (Page 192)
Wild Things! is a book about the joy and quirkiness that is the field of children's literature. It is a celebration of books and their authors, and a defense of the importance of putting the very best possible books into children's hands. Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter Sieruta accomplish all of this by sharing stories and opinions, theirs and those of others, with the reader. Fans of children's books, be they authors, bloggers, teachers, librarians, parents, or just people who appreciate a good book, are sure to enjoy Wild Things! Recommended for adults and older teens (there is definitely content that is not for kids), and a must-purchase for libraries. Wild Things! is a keeper!
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher
FTC Required Disclosure:
This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).
Her two young sons also had some great questions! Here are a couple:
Have you ever ridden on a sea lion?
What does a sea lion's fur feel like?
Wendy sent this gorgeous photo in answer to these rather funny questions!
Was the cake actually poisoned? What with?
It was actually poisoned. They used juice from rhubarb leaves, because that makes you very sick but probably wouldn't kill you.
Why was there a passage where Tiffany's foot got stuck?
Why was the hole joined to the bat's cave?
All the passages, tunnels and caves were formed in the mountain by water dripping or running through the limestone rock, and gradually dissolving it, so that bigger passages, tunnels and caves were formed. Of course this took many thousands of years! Also, any small earthquakes or rumbling through the mountain when the volcano erupted made new faults and cracks, so the water dripped down those and continued to erode the new holes in the tunnel or passage.
At a stage area, publishers will present their latest children's books through different kinds of performances, games, and even cooking demonstrations! Booths at the fair will sell children's books, children's magazines, and art for children. There will be discounts, giveaways, face painting, a drawing/coloring corner, storytelling sessions, and book signings and meet & greets with authors and illustrators.
See you all on July 15 (Tuesday), from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Museo Pambata for the 2014 National Children's Book Day Fair! Add a Comment
You’ve seen those wedding dress shows, right? A bride-to-be goes on a chiffon frenzied quest for the perfect gown while a group of her BFFs sit semi-circled in the salon, waiting to boo-hoo or just boo over her selection. Once in a while, though, the hunter is simply a bride-wanna-be who is willing to throw gobs of moola at a dress, despite her groomlessness. To me, that seems sad, desperate, and at the very least, poorly timed.
When it comes to writers in search of an agent, sometimes it’s really not that different. There’s a time to focus solely on craft, to learning about the industry, reading and networking. But, if this has not yet resulted in a solid, polished product to sell, why would you spend time looking for an agent to represent you?
Let’s say, however, maybe you’re like me, and you’ve been polishing, learning and preparing for quite a spell and you’re wondering if seeking an agent would be a wise next step.Take this quiz to help you decide if you’re agent-ready:
True or False?
____I have at least one thoroughly polished, market-ready manuscript and more in progress.
____I am an active member of a professional organization for writers, such as SCBWI, and follow industry-related blogs, tweets and newsletters to stay current.
____I have a good understanding of the inner-workings of the children’s publishing industry (e.g., the role of publishers, editors, agents, reviewers and authors, the editorial and submission process, how a manuscript becomes a published book, etc.).
____I have sold articles or stories to respected children’s magazines, such as Highlights for Children and/or perhaps even come close to selling a book to a traditional publisher on my own.
____I am actively building a platform via my own web site or blog, as well as social media.
____I am a member of a critique group and/or have a critique partner and/or have received professional critiques from agents or editors.
____I have gone from receiving unsigned form rejection letters to more of the “champagne” variety (personalized notes or letters offering a specific explanation as to why the editor chose to pass on my submission or perhaps offering constructive feedback or an invitation to submit more in the future).
____I understand the role and benefits of an agent, as well as my role as a client.
____I have compiled a list of the qualities and qualifications I am seeking in an agent.
____I have done marketing research to determine where my book fits in the current market and what makes it stand out from similar works. I can explain this in my “elevator pitch” (and I know what an elevator pitch is!)
____I am prepared and enthusiastic to shift from solo writer mode into the role of a professional with a business partner (an agent) so that I can pursue all aspects of a writing career.
____I understand agents, while amazing, do not possess supernatural powers and cannot be expected to read minds, make me stinking rich or fulfill every literary success fantasy I can conjure.
How’d you do?
If you answered with 10 or more “True” responses, consider seeking a literary agent to represent you.
If you answered with 6 to 9 “True” responses, you’re getting closer!
If you answered with 5 or fewer “True” responses, that’s okay. Keep writing, seeking feedback, and using this list as a guide to help prepare yourself to become agent material.
Photo by Vicky Lorencen
All things are ready, if our mind be so. ~ William Shakespeare, Henry V
1. Couch-Nap – I like a good couch-nap. When Mom leaves me alone, the couch is my napping area of choice. Also the floor, my bed, the rocking chair,
and the butterfly rug in the bathroom.
2. Street-Nap – In the summer the asphalt in my neighborhood gets blazing hot. Those are the perfect days for a street-nap. I lie on my belly and my side and sometimes I flip over and squiggle around like a wiggly worm.
3. Laziness – Mom has been kind of lazy lately. She hasn’t been sitting at her computer and talking to herself! That means no writing in a few days. I thought she was a “full-time” writer. This week, she’s been a writer at rest.
4. Excuses – She makes excuses like, “I have an appointment.” and “I’m swamped. It’s a super-busy day.” and “How can I write if you drink all my coffee?” I can make excuses, too. “You left your cup right where I can reach it.”
and “I couldn’t decide which toy to play with.”
and “I was lonely eating in the kitchen by myself.”
5. Back-on-the-horse – Yesterday, Mom sat at her computer and said she was getting back on the horse. I have never seen a horse. Mom saw one in Manhattan and showed me the picture. It looked like a big dog. A really, really, REALLY big dog. I hope she doesn’t love that big guy more than she loves me.
Recently our blogger Yamile wrote about including diversity in our books for children. One of her great points was to make the character of ethnicity the hero or heroine rather than the sidekick.
I'd like to continue with that topic as I am currently working on a picture book to help young children understand how to approach people with physical disabilities.
There aren't a lot of books that include differently abled leads, but (UCW's own) Julie Daines' book, "Unraveled" offers young readers a heroine whose legs are crippled. Daines said that she wanted to provide a love story without the perfect princess-type heroine.
Frankly, I'm surprised there aren't more heroes and heroines with such issues. Not only does it increase understanding of diversity in readership, but in the most clinical of writing terms, it can be very useful to the drama of the story as it adds another layer of difficulty with which the character must contend.
Another tough, but useful, subject is long-term illness in children.
Lupus is a topic dear to my heart (in the interest of full disclosure, I am the board chair of the Lupus Foundation of America, Utah Chapter). And I get to interact with some of our youth who are dealing with this disease. They are bright, enthusiastic, and overburdened--trying to balance the regular social interactions and school with fatigue and other health-related complications.
Lupus causes flares and remissions of widely variable time frames--sometimes within the same day. This is difficult for a lot of adults to understand. But kids are often labeled by their peers as "fakers"; symptoms ebb and wane, affecting different parts of the body at different times, and fatigue is always lurking in the background.
So, while I add a rousing cheer to Yamile's great post and remind you, our UCW blog readers, to consider diversity of all kinds in your lead characters, allow me one latitude (I promise to only take the blog sideways ONCE this year):
Tomorrow is the Walk to End Lupus Now in Salt Lake City's Liberty Park. I invite you to join us. Walk. People watch. And see some really heroic characters. www.utahlupus.org
We have joined the Kid Lit Giveaway Hop hosted by Mother Daughter Book Reviews and Youth Literature Reviews again this year to celebrate children’s book week and give away some awesome prizes. This year we are giving away two great prize packs containing four children’s paperbacks and a $10 Amazon gift card to each winner.
You can enter by going to our Facebook page and entering during May 12-18. There are over 80 other bloggers participating with lots of other prizes that include children/teen’s books, gift cards, cash and other prizes so check out the list and get your entries in.
Giving and receiving critiques on your writing is one of the most helpful and necessary parts of the process. I value my critique group beyond any other writing tools I have. They let me know what works and what doesn't, when something I thought was crystal clear is not, and when my characters are acting out of character. They offer encouragement and cheerleading.
Not only has constant critique made me a better writer, it has made me a more professional writer. When I receive notes from agents, editors, and other professionals, I am able to receive the notes with a professional calmness. I don't get defensive. I get revising.
I hope everyone who writes is able to find a group or a few trusted beta readers who can offer valuable critique, but I know that there are quite a few writers in our SCBWI region (Utah and southern Idaho) who may not even know any other writers in their community. Or perhaps they don't know how to get a group started. Or have never critiqued anyone else's work and feel inadequate.
That is why we started a region-wide event called The Great Critique. We give you the opportunity to meet with other children's writers in your area and critique away. On one day, August 9, we all meet throughout the region, helping each other become better writers (and illustrators--they get to participate as well!). During the summer, you'll receive excerpts from manuscripts by the others registered in your area. You'll read them, prepare comments, and then meet in August for live critiquing. And if you don't have a meeting close by, we offer an online location as well. This event is FREE, and we hope you take advantage of it.
In addition, if you wish to have a critique from a publishing house editor or an agent, you can register for that through our web site. And for an extra bonus, you can get a professional query critique.
You'll find all the details on our registration page. So there are no excuses. Sign up NOW. Registration is open until June 15.
by Neysa CM Jensen your regional advisor for SCBWI (I live in Boise, Idaho, but don't hold that against me.)
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Visualize this thing you want. See it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blueprint and begin. Robert Collier
Visualizing is an important part of a writer’s journey. Mom always visualized opening a letter of acceptance. She walked herself through every bit of how it would feel. The envelope – the weight of it, the uncertainty – that wiggly feeling in the tummy, the zipping it open – the rough edges, and the finally knowing – somebody said yes. Over and over for years and years, she saw it, felt it, and believed it. But guess what. When her first story was sold, no letter came. Her publisher called her on the phone and left a message! That being said, Mom still visualizes getting an acceptance letter. Over and over. Every detail. Every single day. She says, “This will happen.” and “It can’t hurt.” and “What is going on in that tiny brain of yours?”
What time is dinner?
I visualize, too, of course.
What time is dinner?
I see and feel and believe in tons of treats, piles of toys, long walks, and playtime that never ends. My mental blueprint shows how I will get onto the table, into the garbage, out the window, and through the door. My brain may be tiny, but it’s busy all the time. Visualizing…..
It’s an evil, runaway, red balloon. It’s hiding under the car, waiting to roll out and get me. Mom let me walk by really fast, because she knows that balloons are trying to kill me.
And look what’s back there! Two more balloons. White ones. I know what they have planned…
That’s close enough…
I have no plans to start liking balloons, but I want to thank my friend Little Binky for sending me this lovely award. I am not afraid of it.
Do you see what else is hiding? In the grass? A feather. It’s from the birds that sit in the trees and laugh at me.
All kinds of things are hiding in all kinds of places. When I try to hide, I always get caught. The other day, I brought my tiny yellow dog and hid on Mom’s bed with it. Somehow, she found out that I was in there.
I don’t know how she does it! She’s a regular Nancy Drew when it comes to figuring things out.
When she was little, Mom was probably Nancy Drew’s biggest fan. She read every one of the Nancy Drew Mysteries, and hung on every word.
Now that she’s a writer, she hardly ever writes mysteries. She wrote one once, and when it was finished, she said, “Ugh. This thing is so lame.” And “Where’s the suspense, the red herring, the foreshadowing!?” and “Seriously? You’re back on the bed again?”
Mom might BE Nancy Drew, and LOVE Nancy Drew, but she has no plans to WRITE Nancy Drew.